Replacing A Heisman Winner With Ben Roethlisberger

As if the team's story needs to be re-told. After an opening loss at Iowa, the 2003 Miami RedHawks finished with 13 straight victories. They averaged 43 points a game, best in Division I-A, and their defense was also ranked 22nd. They beat two AQ conference schools (Northwestern and Cincinnati) and twice beat top 20-ranked Bowling Green en route to a MAC Championship, then ran through Louisville in the GMAC Bowl to cap their 13-1 season and a No. 10 ranking. It put Ben Roethlisberger into the NFL a year early, and you know the rest.

What you might also remember is Jason White, a quarterback from Oklahoma, winning the Heisman Trophy. No doubt his feel-good story was accented by coming back from a torn ACL, then leading the 2003 Sooners to the Sugar Bowl and a shot at the championship. Unfortunately they pulled a Ball State, falling to Kansas State in the Big XII Championship and somehow carrying enough clout to reach the Sugar Bowl and lose again, this time to LSU. It was a great season, no doubt, and nobody can take that away from Jason White.

I can try, though.

Ben Roethlisberger's season had similar numbers yet finished just ninth in the Heisman voting that year to White. We also know in hindsight he's accomplished more than White, who never suited up for an NFL game. Based on Wikipedia he signed with the Tennessee Titans practice squad and that was it.

In that 2003 season:

Jason White: 278-for-451, 3846 yards, 40 TD, 10 INT
Ben Roethlisberger: 342-for-495, 4486 yards, 37 TD, 10 INT

So while Big Ben had more yards and more accuracy, White still had the better year given the competition he faced. So let's put this to the test. We tried putting a Heisman winner in the MAC, and you can do that to your heart's content in NCAA Football 13. Now let's take it further and replace a Heisman winner with a MAC quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger on the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners. Do they get back to the Sugar Bowl?

Again, the methodology: we're using WhatIfSports Dream Team feature. Out goes Jason White (actually to the third string); in goes Roethlisberger. We add other Oklahoma players from recent years to round out the roster.

So to recap, OU's 2003 schedule:

G Date School Opponent Conf Pts Opp
1 Aug 30, 2003 (1) Oklahoma North Texas Sun Belt W 37 3
2 Sep 6, 2003 (1) Oklahoma @ Alabama SEC W 20 13
3 Sep 13, 2003 (1) Oklahoma Fresno State WAC W 52 28
4 Sep 20, 2003 (1) Oklahoma UCLA Pac-10 W 59 24
5 Oct 4, 2003 (1) Oklahoma @ Iowa State Big 12 W 53 7
6 Oct 11, 2003 (1) Oklahoma N (11) Texas Big 12 W 65 13
7 Oct 18, 2003 (1) Oklahoma (24) Missouri Big 12 W 34 13
8 Oct 25, 2003 (1) Oklahoma @ Colorado Big 12 W 34 20
9 Nov 1, 2003 (1) Oklahoma (14) Oklahoma State Big 12 W 52 9
10 Nov 8, 2003 (1) Oklahoma Texas A&M Big 12 W 77 0
11 Nov 15, 2003 (1) Oklahoma Baylor Big 12 W 41 3
12 Nov 22, 2003 (1) Oklahoma @ Texas Tech Big 12 W 56 25
13 Dec 6, 2003 (1) Oklahoma N (13) Kansas State Big 12 L 7 35
14 Jan 4, 2004 (3) Oklahoma N (2) Louisiana State SEC L 14 21
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 7/22/2012.

And now, for lack of a better pun, the 2003 Roethisooners.

vs. North Texas: W 41-9
Roethlisberger: 22-for-32, 336 yards, 3 TD; he also ran in a 1-yard touchdown.

at Alabama: W 27-9
Roethlisberger: 18-for-28, 238 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT

vs. Fresno State: W 44-28
Roethlisberger: 29-for-36, 331 yards, 3 TD

vs. UCLA: W 27-10
Roethlisberger: 27-for-35, 456 yards, 2 TD, INT

at Iowa State: W 36-6
Roethlisberger: 20-for-29, 336 yards, TD

vs Texas (neutral site): W 19-17
Roethlisberger: 25-for-34, 332 yards

vs. Missouri: W 28-22
Roethlisberger: 21-for-30, 265 yards, TD

at Colorado: W 40-14
Roethlisberger: 28-for-45, 434 yards, 3 TD, INT

vs. Oklahoma State: W 47-9
Roethlisberger: 28-for-39, 432 yards, TD, INT

vs. Texas A&M: W 40-23
Roethlisberger: 27-for-41, 340 yards, 2 TD, INT

vs. Baylor: W 40-14
Roethlisberger: 20-for-25, 350 yards, TD; also an 8-yard rushing TD

at Texas Tech: L 33-29 (overtime)
Roethlisberger: 21-for-33, 338 yards, 2 TD

Well, the loss came earlier than expected, but they would still qualify for the Big XII Championship, winning the tiebreaker with Texas. Win this and all is forgiven!

Big XII Championship vs. Kansas State: W 37-14
Roethlisberger: 20-for-25, 227 yards, 3 TD

OK, that's perhaps enough to send the Roethlisooners to the Sugar Bowl. If we're already pretending, then let's just keep simulating.

Sugar Bowl vs. Louisiana State: W 34-17
Roethlisberger: 28-for-33, 313 yards, 2 TD; also a season best 9 carries for 40 yards.

That would give him a season line of 334-for-465 (72 percent completion), 27 touchdowns and seven INTs. Yeah, that'd have been a Heisman season too. And they'd have won the BCS Championship with Roethlisberger instead! No doubt this would've made him a higher draft pick, possibly number one overall to the San Diego Chargers. Imagine that.

But remember that USC split the title by also finishing 12-1? For kicks I put USC and the Roethlisooners into the simulating pot ... and USC won 34-32 on a last-second field goal.

So the controversy continues.

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)

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